Saturday, November 8, 2014

Decorating with Holiday Greens

Shared by Carol Kagan, Penn State Master Gardener, Franklin County
Last year Master Gardener Annette Macoy posted this helpful article about Decorating with Fresh Greens for the Holidays. It has lots of good information.
One of our nicest winter holiday traditions is decorating with fresh greenery. Evergreens such as cedar, ivy, pine and holly add a natural look and fresh fragrance to our homes; for many, they represent life everlasting and the coming renewal of spring. Your own landscape is a great place to look for holiday greenery. You may have a variety of materials unavailable at a store, and what you gather will be much fresher. Just remember that you are actually pruning the plants as you gather greenery, so consider carefully which branches you can trim to preserve the natural form of the tree or shrub.
Proper Conditioning of Greenery 
Conditioned greens will last for quite a while in arrangements.
  • Immerse entire evergreen branch in warm water for 12 hours or overnight. This will prolong the life of the branch and also clean the foliage.
  • Remove all lower leaves to ensure that there is no soft material below the water level where it can rot and form bacteria.
  • Re-cut the stem ends at an angle to provide a large surface area for the maximum absorption of water.
  • Stand all branches in water in a cool, dark place until ready to use.
  • Change the water every 2-3 days. A few drops of bleach may be added to the water to prevent bacteria formation.
Check your decorations often, and replace any greenery that becomes dry. Keep greenery away from heat sources and out of direct sunlight. Some popular decorating materials have toxic berries or leaves, so keep holiday decorations out of the reach of children and pets.

Suggested Varieties for Decorating

Needled and broadleaf evergreens include white pine, juniper, Douglas fir, cedar, fir, spruce, ivy, holly, mountain laurel, boxwood, evergreen magnolia, arborvitae, evergreen viburnum, Leyland cypress, nandina, Cryptomeria, hemlock, and Chamaecyparis.

Other plant parts such as berries, dried flowers, cones, seed pods, and twigs can add color and texture to holiday arrangements. Some possibilities include: acorns, bittersweet, holly berries, hydrangea blossoms, magnolia pods, nandina berries, pine cones, pyracantha berries, rose hips, sweet gum balls, bayberry, redtwig dogwood, and fruits such as lemons, limes, crabapples, seckel pears, kumquats, and pineapple.

Annette Macoy, Penn State Extension of Cumberland County

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